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Arequipa, Peru English Teaching Q and A with Caryn Shebowich
Written by: Caryn Shebowich
Last Updated: February 19, 2021
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I wanted to travel after graduating from college, and my college career office adviser had been a TEFL teacher for a while as a recent college grad. He recommended I check it out!
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Safety, making friends, navigating a different culture
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Some were supportive; some thought I was a little crazy. My parents were concerned for my safety but I'm lucky to say they were VERY supportive.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I know it's possible to teach English without a certification, but I didn't feel like I would have any idea how to teach without some training. I chose ITA because a friend of mine had found them and had a good experience with hearing back from them quickly, etc.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Peru - Arequipa TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
I thought the course prepared me to do my job, just as it promised it would. There was a heavy grammar component which at the time, I found fascinating and helpful. Looking back on it, I wish we had also had a heavier focus on pedagogy and student teaching. Regardless, it was a good experience with an instructor who was very passionate and made it easy to engage in the material we were learning.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
I ended up getting hired at the institution I trained at, so all of my training was directly relevant to the methods that that institution uses! I did my student teaching there and everything :)
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Peru in the city of Arequipa because I was already settled here from my TEFL course, and it's a BEAUTIFUL city.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I've been here two months now and will be here a minimum of two more, but potentially longer than that.
How did you secure your English teaching job?
The institute where I took my TEFL course is also a private English institute where I now work.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
Extreme Learning Centers
How did you get your work visa?
I don't have a work visa- I'm working for ELC as an intern and getting paid separately under the table. They made it sound like it was kind of legal, kind of not. In terms of my stay in the country, I have to cross the border every 90 days but it's no big deal because we're relatively close, and it's a great excuse to travel! As a US citizen, I'm allowed to keep re-entering for 90 days at a time.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
Work hours: I work 6 hours a day, 5 days a week plus planning (which is about another 2-3 hours a day). This month I worked for 3 hours on Saturdays too, but the institute I'm at changes schedules monthly so next month I'll only be working during the day.
Salary: I'm paid 12 soles an hour right now (the equivalent of about $4/hr)
Students: I'm working for a private institute teaching mostly young adults and older adults.
Savings: I'm not able to save hardly anything, but I make enough for rent, food, and a little fun on the weekends! The more frugal you are, the more you can save.
Vacation: I don't get paid vacation, but I hear we'll have 2 weeks for the holidays. It's a great gig because I signed a 3 month contract and after that I just need to give a one-two month notice before leaving so I have a lot of flexibility.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
My friend and I did the TEFL course together and got referred to a classmate who was renting by the coordinator of our program. We live in a great little apartment with a beautiful view and a ten minute walk from the school. We're moving to an equally nice place that we found by chatting to people around here when it was getting time for our lease to be up.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Arequipa is wonderful. I haven't been much elsewhere in Peru, but I love Arequipa. It's beautiful and sunny, the culture is warm and open, and it's a big city without feeling like one. The downtown area is hopping on the weekends and Peruvians love to party all night on Fridays and Saturdays. The food here is DELICIOUS and cheap and everywhere you go, you'll be able to eat well and a lot for very little.
Especially as an English teacher, the expat community is large and easy to get sucked into, but if you put some effort into it, the locals are more than happy to show you around and show you what Peru's about. It's pretty easy and cheap to travel by bus here, and air travel is easily accessible if a little more expensive. I haven't had much time to do a lot of social stuff around here as I'm still learning to efficiently lesson plan, etc, but there is no doubt lots to do if you look for it.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent: 400-500 soles a month, utilities included (that's about $150)
Food: depends on the day, but I budget about 15 soles a day maximum. That includes eating out a lot. ($5)
Social activities: I haven't done a lot of this, but it depends on what you want to do. Going out on the weekends will cost you maybe 40 soles ($15), but other activities really depend.
Phone: I bought a prepaid sim card for 15 soles ($5), but I haven't even used the original minutes on the phone. I operate almost solely on FB messenger and whatsapp. If I used my phone every day it would probably be 10-15 soles ($3-$5) a month-ish, depending on my usage.
Travel: I went to Chile for a few days and that was amazing and cheap- a bus ride here is about 25 soles to Tacna (a 5-6 hr bus ride) and another 12 to Arica, Chile (about 2 hours, that includes border crossing).
How would you describe your standard of living?
Almost as cushy as the US, with the occasional power outage or water being shut off for 15 hours. It's really quite nice.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
Probably 10 soles/hr, 40 hrs/week (approximately $120 USD per week)
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I'd absolutely recommend teaching here, or teaching anywhere in general. If you're thinking of teaching, GET A CERTIFICATE. If nothing else the certificate will force you to think about what it means to teach and will give you some grounding for your pedagogy. And also be prepared to spend A LOT of time on lesson plans at first. It will get easier and faster, but the job will be pretty all consuming at the beginning.
Just out of college at age 21, Caryn headed down to get TEFL certified in Arequipa, Peru. After completing her four-week course, Caryn stayed on to teach English and explore the cultural and natural treasures of Peru.
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